Larger than life

When the powerful Red Empire, led by the notorious Joseph Stalin, invaded without official declaration, the people of Poland found they were in the midst of a hopeless situation.

Unable to afford basic necessities, and unable to suppress the communist party, an outspoken electrician working at Gdansk shipyard decided to make a stand, a stand that would lead to the Solidarity movement, and the fall of communism.

But before the outspoken electrician succeeded, the world and its computers of the time said there was no chance of defeating Stalin’s regime, and before he, now the 66-year-old, former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, could succeed, he would have to fail.

In 1996, “for his outstanding achievements against incredible odds,” President James Gartner said President Walesa was presented the Sam Houston State University Humanitarian award.

On Thursday, Oct. 29, Lech Walesa arrived in Huntsville as a guest speaker in the Killenger Auditorium at Sam Houston State University once again; this time to speak to students about the issues of today’s era and America’s role as a superpower and world leader in a lecture titled “Challenges of Globalization: Values in a Changing World”.

“He is a person that has exhibited intellectual, moral, and physical courage in his lifetime. He is literally a person who has changed history,” Gaertner said.

Standing on the stage with translator Magda Iwinsua at his side, Walesa greeted the crowd with a mustache hiding a generous a smile, patting his stomach as he bowed to an eruption of laughter from the audience on its feet with praise.

“Ladies and gentleman, thank you very much for this opportunity so that I can express myself to you,” Walesa said. “You are the superpower and the whole world is looking up at the United States, judging if it is actually complying with the leadership position properly as superpower.”

From revolution and solidarity, eras were changed, and out of the era of confrontation, divisions and the bipolar system, he said the world entered the era of intellect, of information, and now Globalization.

“The United States has has remained the only superpower on the battle field, and actually you bear the responsibility for how this huge victory is going to be taking advantage of,” Walesa said.

In a conference prior to the lecture, Walesa responded to Jeannie Kever of the Houston Chronicle’s question regarding the reaction of Poland as well as his own to the Obama administration’s plan to change the missile shield explaining that he is both in favor and against the shield at the present time.”

Walesa shared his views on President Barack Obama’s recent Nobel Prize selection, insinuating the selection as too soon, but also said Obama stands “a good chance of really reforming the world,” a world he said lacks leadership.

“The world is saying the world needs reform, the United States says there is a need for change, and the world at the end of communism and at the downfall of communism at the end of a bipolar system needs to re-adjust to the new [system] and it would be very beneficial if this reform was peaceful,” Walesa said. “It seems to me that he will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize, we will see. I certainly wish him all the best.”

While Walesa said he finds Obama’s policies interesting, he also said so far it appears that Obama has been

focusing on the former adversaries of the United States.

“I imagine that once he gets everybody at that negotiation table, he will then propose some kind of reform,” Walesa said. “But if he fails to do that then there will be chaos in the world.”

In the eyes of Walesa, democracy has thus far guaranteed rights and privileges, but just as democracy seems to become less and less sufficient it also seems too slow in operations; thus,it is in need of reform to adjust to today’s world.

“China and India will join in [the] structure in making [with] the United States and Europe and if we follow and could give them the right to vote according to our basic principle of democracy can we imagine any vote being won by whole Europe or even by whole United States against the Chinese?”

Exemplifying his warning, Walesa suggested a hypothetical situation.

“At one point China might say, ‘why don’t you have the United States join China?’ and they will have the majority vote. How would react then? Do we object to that vote? So I think we need to reform and readjust it slightly,” Walesa said.

An alternative solution to the hypothetical, yet possible, situation was also offered.

“Of course I could also see an [immediate] solution; all of us have to get down to work and work really hard to have at least 30 children in every household. Then, who knows ,we might stand a chance of winning against the Chinese,” Walesa said to great applause.

Addressing the need for a foundation in the new world, Walesa said “We need to race to education an individual consciencethe [test] challenges us to reach consensus on the values we can share and once we reach this consensus we need to use these values as the real foundations for any other solution”

Walesa still believes it’s possible to deal with the military challenges of the Middle East in a peaceful manner providing an attempt to re-adjust the structures and institutions in today’s world.

“We continue to be using old NATO, old United Nations, which were established to face totally different challenges in the world. They were established to control the bipolar system, they were established to block the antagonism between two conflicting sides, ” Walesa said. “Unless we really reform these institutions and re-adjust them, then we shall always find those challenges difficult to overcome.

As a generation which has witnessed the beginning of a new century and new millennium, Walesa said this generation has also witnessed the beginning of a new era.

“I foresee that tomorrow within the next 20 years, democracy will oblige everyone, every individual include to declare what we own, what possessions we have , and forever will be deprived of them.” he said. “then once this is all transparent, democracy will realize that really only 10 percent of mankind owns some assets where the 90 percent does not.”

The man who at one time in his life found himself leading a revolution said he does not foresee such particular individuals of this “special generation” eager to carry out revolution, because “revolution will hardly ever win.”

However, he does predict “[masses] will elect demagogues and populist, who will then go out giving the people what does not belong to them, and will try to retrieve the money giving out through taxes or by other means to keep their election promises.”, and asks ,”What should be the shape of democracy today?”

While the crowd at the lecture stood on their feet in admiration of the man who has seen, the man who has led, and the man who continues to share insight; another man, disappointed, shared what he heard a student say.

“My wife is a professor here [at SHSU] and she told her students that this [lecture] was happening today and his response was, ‘well, he doesn’t matter anymore,'” Sam Beard of the Walker County Free Press said in a conversation.

Taken aback, Bruce Erickson, director of communications whispered in response, “Oh, but he does!” and warned the consequences of ignoring history with the old clich of making the same old mistake.

“Had he not done what he did, Poland would probably not be the country it is. The revolution that this man led could have gone either direction, the tanks were lined up and he went to prison for it. In 1956, the nation of Hungary tried something similar and it didn’t end well. The tanks rolled end and a lot of people were killed,” Erickson said. “I hope students Google him and they understand what a tremendous figure he was in history and in changing the world.”

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